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Monday, 7 February 1994
Page: 438


Senator BOURNE —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will discussions between the Australian government and Mr Paias Wingti include human rights as a high priority and, in particular, will discussions include the situation on Bougainville and visits by representatives of independent organisations to all parts of that island to assess conditions there and possible solutions?


Senator GARETH EVANS —Honourable senators will be aware that the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Mr Paias Wingti, will be visiting Australia from tomorrow until 14 February as a guest of the Australian government. During his visit Prime Minister Wingti will meet our Prime Minister and other ministers in Canberra. He will also have meetings with the state governments of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, and with business leaders in those states.

  We attach very high priority to relations with Papua New Guinea. We have shared interests in a large number of areas, including engagement in Asia, and more recently in the development of APEC with PNG as a member. Bougainville and human rights generally will be important issues for discussion with Prime Minister Wingti. We will certainly be urging, as we have from the outset, the Wingti government to seek a peaceful resolution of the Bougainville crisis through the process of reconciliation among all parties to the conflict. In that context, we will be reiterating our willingness to assist by facilitating a meeting of Bougainvillean leaders, perhaps by providing a venue or some other form of logistical support, provided that all parties to the conflict agree that our involvement would be helpful.

  As we have said on a number of occasions, we will also give further consideration to any proposals for further assistance by way of relief and rehabilitation in support of the PNG government's own efforts on Bougainville. We will also again take the opportunity to raise the issue of human rights, particularly on Bougainville, making clear our abhorrence of human rights violations perpetrated by whichever side.

  In relation to the question of whether there should be—as the honourable senator suggested—visits by representatives of independent organisations to various parts of the province to assess conditions there, and possible solutions, might I say that that is an issue for the Papua New Guinea government itself to determine. Our view would be that such visits, if properly conducted, would be of value and could be practical now that conditions have stabilised in many parts of the province.